>> A few months ago I got a strange interview request asking me – a non Korean, never-been-to-Korea, in no way an expert on anything Korean person – about whether I thought Korean fashion was making serious international waves following Gangnam Style mania or as part of a broader "Korean Wave" cultural movement.  The simplistic answer for me is no, not yet but I sure as hell wish it would happen judging by the number of Korean gems that seem to come through my inbox.  Now I fear though any plan I make to get onboard the Seoul Train will be tainted with knowing judgement.  Oh, NOW you think it's "cool" to go to Seoul.  It's that PSY isn't it?  It's all this K-pop guff, right?  It's HALLYU madness!

In truth, the trip has been thwarted on so many occasions, dating back to just over three years ago when I was invited out to Seoul Fashion Week but couldn't make the timing work with my then full-time job.  Nobody will believe me though so I'll just go along with the make believe line.  "Yeah, it's the horse-cantering dance moves.  And all those beguiling lyrics about coffee drinking.  That's why I want to go to the land of kimchee."  

In all seriousness though, what I have noticed is a growing willingness of Korean designers to get in touch with me.  Or the simple fact that the Korean fashion industry itself has burgeoned, with the majority of labels having only had lifespans of less than five years or so.  Either way, I'm getting Seoul vibes in my emails and I'm frankly loving it.  The latest one to come in is Lucky Chouette, a diffusion line of the infinitely more ladylike and grown-up label Jardin de Chouette.  They must have known what my speed was because Lucky Chouette's collection of endearing logo-ed hoodies, varsity jackets, caps and emoticon graphics reminds me of the type of clothes I wore as a five to seven year old and wish I had in adult size.  In fact, looking at this overload of anime bright colours, sailor collars, dungarees and chunky sneakers… why, this is in fact what my childhood heroine Arale Norimaki would wear, were she to suddenly reappear today in all her purple haired glory and impossibly happy disposition.  For those not familiar with the early 80s Japanese manga Dr. Slump, Arale was basically everything I wanted to be.  A tomboy robot with severe shortsightedness (our only common trait), she bounced around in winged caps, chunky sneaks and baseball tees causing mischief and occasionally freaking people out with a stick of candy floss coloured poop poop (don't ask – just find out for yourself if you can).  

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"Street elements and graphics, playful and humorous arty work through a variety of cultural and Style propose a new character brand" is the translated sentence that I get from Lucky Chouette's About page and that's basically all you need to know.  Play.  Street.  Graphics.  Those elements are combined with a girly sensibility that so often eludes traditional streetwear brands for women.  Chuck a bit of trend-driven sass (not a bad thing when used correctly) into the silhouettes and choice of fabrics and you get clothes that aren't just for weirdos like me that immediately think of eighties manga characters.  

As with all Korean labels though, the final thudding question is always "Where can I get my hands on this stuff?"  I have no finite answer but I'm guessing Lucky Chouette are keen to get their wares out into the wide open world, beyond Seoul.  I'll try and get the ball rolling here then and badger them about international shipping seeing as they do have a domestic-shipping e-store.  Come on now, Seoul.  You can export a popstar or two but not a sweatshirt in a post pack envelope?  I suspect this will change in the coming months.  Oh well, maybe that interviewer was on the money after all.  

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>> I have nothing but isometric cubes building up in escalated form in my head thanks to a collaboration between London prinsters Eley Kishimoto and beloved shoe brand Clarks will be available on 1st March (you can register your interest through the Notify Me button on the Clarks site).  Back in September, Eley Kishimoto showcased exactly why the duo Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto have such a versatile method of collaboration, with the "Living with Patterns" exhibition at The Aram Gallery in London.  From home interiors to transportation to home electricals, Eley Kishimoto have built up an exhaustive list of collaborators, often using house signatures such as the Flash pattern as their design constant, bridging all of these diverse projects together.  For their 20th anniversary, they continue to spread their print gospel with another strong collaboration that ties in with their current S/S 13 collection.  The three-style, three-print collection for Clarks gives our feet the opportunity to be adorned with the classic black Flash pattern as well two colourways of the distorted isometric cube print, entitled "Cute Boys".  Not sure how the title relates to the design of the print other than I can well imagine a room full of Cute geek-ish Boys meticulously drawing angle-perfect isometric cubes.  

I suspect the printed desert boots will be the hot cake style of the range as this design classic can't be beat for its practical nature and all purpose wearability, but sadly the links keep leading me to blank pages.  I have pedantically emailed the PR to see whether this is a glitch or whether they've already flown out of the store at super high speed.    

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I'm almost tempted to buy the desert boots in both pink/red and yellow/green styles just to create an installation in front of my future chimney brest wall, covered with Studio Lile Sadi's "Dimensions" wallpaper, alongside a few crocheted isometric cushions from Paravent on Etsy.  People in my life will know that soon there will be a proper Chez Salter and Lau as we're moving to our first joint home, providing that those pesky solicitors get their arses in gear.  Therefore you're going to have to put up with some of these loosely-related house-y bits creeping on to the blog once in a while.       
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Before I began going down to Australia for fashion week, one of the labels that I was semi-familiar with was the Melbourne based TV, designed by Monika Tywanek & Ingrid Verner.  It even made mighty arduous inroads into the UK when it was stocked briefly in Topshop Oxford Circus.  I remember enthusing about all things TV with another Melbournite Kat George, my ex-assistant at Dazed (now an amusing confessional writer at Vice if you're interested).  Then all things TV stopped.  Boo.

The V in TV aka Ingrid Verner has now relaunched with a solo label.  Like any good solo project, it veers away from the originating source material and Verner, by the looks of it, is decidedly more extreme and sportswear orientated in style.  This is Verner's second collection (which they're calling AW13 for the Australian seasons) and even in comparison to the first marble-print, pastel-hued Ballet Russes-inspired collection (which is available in parts at one of my favourite Melbourne spots Pet Shop Girls), it's a different style step towards an ironic take on logo laden sportswear.  A blurred out, Photoshop-heavy image of a burning house is the central print motif and appears apocalyptic on silk separates, often trimmed with wide underwear elastic, printed with the words Verner, Sleep and Work, cheekily referencing Calvin Klein undies.  Skater logo hoods, bilinear backpacks and an oversized puffa coat all point to a thorough investigation into the nuances of when sportswear meets the street, most likely inspired by nineties to present sub-street culture – skaters, chavs, football hooligans, b-boyers, BMX-ers.

Verner's website isn't yet functioning so it's early days yet but it seems Ingrid Verner is setting her sights on ambitions that go beyond building a domestic label with the aim of selling to Asia and Europe.  Given this fair city's penchant for irony-laced/celebratory takes on sportswear (see Christopher Shannon, Kim Jones and about a gazillion graduates every year that take on a similar aesthetic), let's hope Verner gets some shop support from the UK soon.

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>> There's been a bit of a quiet campaign in progress for the launch of H&M's new brand & Other Stories.  We've not been inundated with lookbook imagery and the exact aesthetic of & Other Stories has been shrouded in mystery with the imagery and video being drip fed slowly but surely.  The official blurb is this…

& Other Stories is a fashion brand offering women a wide range of shoes, bags, accessories, beauty and ready-to-wear to create their personal style, or story. Their creative ateliers in Paris and Stockholm design diversified fashion collections with great attention to detail and quality at an affordable price.

Us lucky Europe folk are already more than familiar with the quietly assured and smart design offerings from H&M's other stablemate COS.  I personally can't imagine doing a high street haul that doesn't include something from COS as they synthesise the noise of trends to a refined rail of pieces that doesn't scrimp on design detailing, quality and functionality.  In fact, when the launch of & Other Stories was announced, I was struggling to see how they could differentiate from COS.  Then I chided myself.  What a misplaced complaint!  There is nothing wrong with a COS-esque womens only store coming our way.  H&M recognised the missing gap for fast fashion to appear slowed down, intelligently thought out and giving more bang for your buck.  It seems that & Other Stories is of that similar vein of thinking and frankly, a diverse choice of offerings in that H&M/COS price range is no bad thing at all.  

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As it turns out, as I've been browsing the beautifully laid out & Other Stories Tumblr page and checking out the series of short & Other Stories videos, the aesthetic is definitely distinct from COS.  The fact that it's womenswear only already adds a slightly more effeminate (but not overly so) undertone to the imagery.  The idea seems to be about integrating pieces from the & Other Stories collection into your daily life.  The look feels specific, nuanced and dare I say, expensive.  If glimpses of sculptural heels, matte black jewellery and marble print separates are anything to go by, this addition to Regent Street will be welcomed with open arms.  Well, at least my open arms.  

Similar to the way COS has launched though, sadly & Other Stories is for Europe only for the time being.  Physical stores are opening in London, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Milan and Barcelona and the accompanying online store will ship onto to selected countries in Europe.  Boo.  Still, another reason to lure fashion loving shoppers to our supposedly ailing high street is definitely a plus point.    

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& Other Stories has given Style Bubble an exclusive peek at their latest video which centres around lingerie.  Other than a fetching fleur de lis flocked bodysuit and a sensual multi-strapped balconette bra, they're hardly giving anything away although I am already wondering why I don't own anything with the magnficient fleur de lis pattern on it.  No worries.  & Other Stories will soon be upon us so that I can rectify that lacking.